What started as a nice letter to the editor turned into a really fun assignment. I contacted Dr. Bonde in Sept. to say thanks for the nice words in the letter about one of my football photos. He replied saying I should come along with his group as they capture manatees. Consider it done.
A few months later, reporter Morgan Watkins and I found ourselves on a small “beach” that existed only because of the low tide early in the morning in Crystal River, Florida. The river area and springs are a popular destination for manatees to gather during the cold winter months. Making it easy for Dr. Bonde and his crew to capture the animals and collect the data they need.
I could explain what all happens but I’ll let the main man do the talking since he knows a thing or two about the subject.
Did you know there’s a specific way to pour water onto a manatee’s face? Yep. It needs to be dumped from the eyes so the water will flow down the rest of the face simulating the animal surfacing for a breath. So the dumping of the water tricks the manatee into taking a breath. Just splashing the face doesn’t always work. Pretty slick.
We stayed on the “beach” until the tide came up and we were all ankle deep in water. After it was all said and done they allowed us the chance to go swim with the manatees. That’s been on my Florida bucket list since I found out you could actually do that. What I also found out is that I’m a horrible swimmer. Decked out in a rented wet suit, mask, snorkel and my GoPro I hopped off the boat and “swam” to the area where the other folks were hanging around. I thought they were all standing. Nope. I found out that I can only tread water for a few minutes before becoming exhausted. So I paddled myself back to the boat totally out of breath and saw zero aquatic wildlife. Lucky for me nobody else saw anything ether. Makes for a fun story I guess… but I had visions of taking an underwater selfie with a manatee. Maybe next year.